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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Georgia State: Training the Brain to Quit Smoking

In many ways, the decline of smoking is one of America’s great public health success stories. Before the Surgeon General released a damning report on smoking and health in 1964, more than 40 percent of American adults smoked. Today, just 14 percent do. But the number of smokers isn’t the only thing that’s changed. There’s also been a major shift in who is smoking.

Unlike the white collar, affluent smokers of the “Mad Men” era, today’s smokers have less education and a lower income. They’re more likely to have mental health disorders. Smoking rates are also much higher among certain racial groups, and African Americans are more likely to die from smoking-related disease than whites.

“Tobacco control strategies have been largely successful, but they haven’t worked for a subset of Americans,” says Dr. Claire Spears, assistant professor of health policy and behavioral sciences in the Georgia State University School of Public Health. “We know that minority adults of low socio-economic status are less likely to quit, and more likely to develop cancers related to tobacco use.”

Dr. Spears recently received $3.15 million from the National Cancer Institute to provide a different kind of support than what’s been offered before. She has developed a program, “iQuit Mindfully,” that delivers personalized text messages built around mindfulness training.

“Many people smoke as a way to cope with stress, but it doesn’t work in the long term,” says Dr. Spears. “Mindfulness is a more effective, durable way to manage stress.”

Mindfulness can also take smokers off autopilot. By focusing a person’s attention on the present moment, mindfulness interrupts the tendency to reach for a cigarette when faced with triggers.

Learn more about iQuit Mindfully.

Learn more about Dr. Claire Spears.

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